A few months after I wrote my blog about Key Words and the value of using these in context as opposed to focussing on the elements of music as distinct entities, I started to work on a new Musical Futures approach for primary teachers and students which eventually became known as Just Play.
At the time, my role was as Head of Development for Musical Futures in the U.K. and my remit was to work in partnership with Musical Futures Australia to develop an approach to support generalist primary teachers to deliver whole class music making with their classes.
The resulting training and resource offer has since been adopted as one of the key Musical Futures approaches and is currently being delivered to over 2000 teachers across Australia as well as in Asia, UAE, New Zealand, Europe and the U.K.
In January 2015, working with Musical Futures Australia Director Ken Owen and the fabulous Nick Flesher who acted as our external observer, I was part of a pre-pilot test of the ideas that took place with the support of Hackney Music Service at two primary schools, Whitmore Primary and St Matthias C of E Primary in London.
At Whitmore, Ken and I spent 2 days working with a Year 4 class. It was a massive learning curve for us in many ways and we were able to really put all of our ideas, assumptions and preconceptions to the test.
Each day lasted approximately 4 hours and there was an assembly performance to the whole school and parents planned to showcase the outcomes the children produced as a result.
I will write more about this, I really did learn a huge amount from these children, however there was an unexpected but really welcome outcome of the pre-pilot that came out of Nick’s interviews with the children. Neither Ken or I had spent any time ‘teaching” key musical concepts or key words to the children we “just played” and of course, as musicians ourselves, we used relevant musical language as we worked through the approach with the class.
Bu then at the end of the first day, when Nick asked them to go over what they had learned, he found that they were using various key words in context as they explained what they had been doing, something that none of us had expected.
When we watched back the video taken during the student conversations, we certainly didn’t expect them to have grasped so much in such a short space of time.
So with this in mind, I am adopting one of Musical Futures’ key phrases that used throughout the Musical Futures Non Formal Teaching approaches on which Just Play is founded.
Musical concepts, key words and other relevant musical knowledge can be “caught not taught”. Use them in context, model and reinforce through practical application and no matter the age of the students involved, they can and will internalise these.
Imagine the implications of this for the much-loved ‘Elements of Music’ projects and ‘Dr P Smith”, the assessment criteria that demands that students “add dynamics” in order to progress to the next level. What if, as Musical Futures so heartily advocates, we “Just Play”?